Neonatal blood transfusion as transmission route in chronic hepatitis C

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The aim of this study was to investigate if neonatal transfusions could underlie chronic hepatitis C in adults for whom the disease transmission route was previously unknown.


Questionnaires were sent to 255 patients with chronic hepatitis C born in Sweden in 1960 to 1975. The medical records of 230 of the patients, of whom 98 (43%) had unknown transmission route, were studied regarding the occurrence of neonatal blood transfusions. The clinical, virologic, and histopathologic characteristics of those found to have received transfusions as neonates were also studied.


Four of 230 (1.7%; 95% confidence interval, 0.5%-4.4%) patients with hepatitis C had received blood products as neonates. Three of them had reported unknown transmission route. One had cirrhosis, while two had mild histopathologic findings on liver biopsy. Three out of four patients in the transfused group, including the patient with liver cirrhosis, had undergone treatment for hepatitis C, all of them with a sustained viral response.


Previously unidentified neonatal blood transfusions explain only a small fraction of chronic hepatitis C cases with unknown transmission route. Individual patients infected early in life can develop progressive liver damage as young adults and may benefit from antiviral treatment. The finding suggests that efforts are needed to actively trace and test adults who have been subjected to neonatal blood product transfusion before 1992.

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